I am not what you would call religious. I was raised Catholic and am certain I’m a better person because of it. But somewhere along the line, I fell away from the church. Occasionally I find my way back – and when I do it’s usually on a Good Friday.
I like to go when when the church is completely empty and it’s just me, God and the echoes in there. I go in, sit down and just have a nice chat. I usually talk about what I’m grateful for, ask for strength, and then sit a while. I love the quiet and the smell of burning candles.
It must be a throwback to the years when I had to go to church on Good Friday and sit, stand, and kneel for hours. I remember the priest reading what seemed like the entire bible, but was just the story of events leading to Jesus’ crucifixion. The stories left such an impression that I still feel weird doing anything fun from 12 to 3, the hours they said he suffered and died.
And, in 1996, in a show of solidarity, I actually went into labor on a Good Friday. Now that’s some good Italian Catholic guilt!
After the stations of the cross, I remember them stripping the altar, so nothing was left. It was very dramatic seeing the altar empty and the tabernacle door open — and always such a miracle when I came back on Easter Sunday to find it decorated and overflowing with sweet smelling lilies.
I’m not a fan of masses, where everyone seems to sit, stand, and recite words they memorized a lifetime ago. I’m sure God is there because God is everywhere, but I don’t feel a presence then.
I feel the hand of God when I’m dwarfed by the majesty of towering sequoia trees as I step quietly on the soft mulch carpet they provide, or in the park, when a gentle breeze rustles the leaves in the trees, or at night, when I’m walking my dog and see a star twinkling like mad.
And every year, I feel it on a Good Friday, when it’s just me and God inside an empty, quiet church.